United States v. F. W. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100; 61 S. Ct. 451; 85 L. Ed. 609 (1941)

United States v. F. W. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100; 61 S. Ct. 451; 85 L. Ed. 609 (1941)

Facts—The appellee was engaged, in the state of Georgia, in the business of acquiring raw materials, which he manufactured into finished lumber with the intention of shipping it in interstate commerce to customers outside the state. Numerous counts charged the appellee with the shipment of lumber in interstate commerce from Georgia to points outside the state and that he employed workmen at less than the prescribed minimum wage or more than the prescribed maximum hours without payment of any wage for overtime. Another count charged the appellee with failure to keep records showing the hours worked each day a week by his employees, as required by the regulation of the administrator. The appellee sought to sustain the decision on the grounds that the prohibition of Congress was unauthorized by the commerce clause, and was prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.

Question—Does the congressional prohibition of the shipment in interstate commerce of lumber manufactured by employees whose wages are less than a prescribed minimum or whose weekly hours are greater than a prescribed maximum interfere with the powers reserved to the states?


ReasonsJ. Stone (9–0). The manufacture of goods in itself is not a matter of interstate commerce, but the shipment of such articles is. It was contended that the regulations of Congress in the matter of wages and hours belong properly to the states. However, the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce is complete in itself, with no other limitations except those prescribed in the Constitution. Stone interprets the Tenth Amendment, reserving nondelegated powers to the states, as but a “truism” with little real teeth. The motive and purpose of the act in question was to keep interstate commerce from being an instrument in the distribution of goods produced under substandard conditions, as such competition would be injurious to interstate commerce. This was a matter of legislative judgment perfectly within the bounds of congressional power, and over which the courts are given no control. Congress has the power to regulate not only commerce between the states, but such intrastate activities that so affect interstate commerce as to make their regulation means to a legitimate end. As regards the congressional policy of excluding from interstate commerce all goods manufactured under substandard conditions, the enforcement of wages and hours, even though intrastate, is a valid means of protection, and therefore, within the reach of the commerce power.

NoteDarby reversed Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918). In upholding the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Darby, in effect, ruled that the unratified Child Labor Amendment, proposed by Congress in 1924, was unneeded. Darby closed the era of laissez-faire in which the Court restricted the economic powers of Congress. It returned to John Marshall’s view of a broad, almost unlimited, commerce power.

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